National Council of Churches

“Massive” National Council of Churches Arises!

Mark Tooley on October 5, 2018

Associated Press has reported: “A massive coalition of U.S. Christian churches attended by 40 million people wants Brett Kavanaugh to withdraw his Supreme Court nomination.”

The report fueled a multitude of other media about this supposed “massive coalition” about which almost no readers, and likely most of the writers, had never heard.

What was this “massive” religious group?

The National Council of Churches!

Presumably its reported seven full and part-time employees are justifiably thrilled that its news release this week reiterating opposition to Judge Kavanaugh, first announced in August, ignited such reaction.

For them, it must seem like 1958 again. Articles variously claimed the NCC’s 38 member denominations have 40 or even 45 million members. “Massive” indeed.

These numbers date to many years ago. Today’s membership of all member churches is closer to perhaps 36 million. Even this number includes several denominations that haven’t counted their membership in a decade or more.

One of the NCC’s useful programs was publishing for decades an annual directory of USA and Canadian denominational statistics, which ironically chronicled the NCC’s own decline. Eventually the cash-starved NCC discontinued publication.

But with its few remaining staff the NCC still posts political statements from its small Capitol Hill office. Few heed them, and the explosive attention to the Kavanaugh statement apparently shut down the NCC’s usually low traffic website.

One commentator with over 1 million Twitter followers who gushed over the Kavanaugh statement asserted that the NCC isn’t even liberal. Such claim evinces the NCC has become so obscure that even well informed people don’t know what it is.

Highlighting the NCC is almost akin to showcasing the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, which also still exists, and like the NCC also was powerful in another bygone era.

My own career of church activism began 30 years ago contra the NCC! I wasn’t long out of college and introduced a resolution to the Virginia Annual Conference of United Methodism for our denomination to withdraw from the NCC and World Council of Churches. I pointed to the ecumenical councils’ support for Marxist revolutionary guerrilla groups and regimes that were decidedly repressive.

Such was their notoriety that when I asked strangers to help me distribute materials on the convention floor, after I explained the cause, they gladly responded SURE! Today, most, even at a United Methodist gathering, would not know what the NCC is.

The NCC became really controversial in the 1980s when 60 Minutes and Readers Digest reported church dollars supporting Marxist causes. Arguably the NCC never fully recovered. Founded after WWII, the NCC, like its predecessor, the Federal Council of Churches, was always left of center and left of its mostly bourgeois Mainline Protestant membership. But it didn’t turn far left until the 1960s, by which time its major denominations had begun their 50 year decline.

The Rockefellers built The Interchurch Center in New York to house the NCC and Mainline Protestant agencies. But most of those agencies, along with the NCC, shrunk and are now relocated. Once having hundreds of employees and budgets in tens of millions, the NCC now has seven employees and a budget just over $2 million.

Its largest donors have traditionally been United Methodism and Presbyterian Church USA, which once gave millions annually but now just several hundreds of thousands.

In the 1990s I attended NCC general assemblies (which no longer meet) and board meetings as a reporter. The chief topic was often budgetary crises. Even after its Cold War controversies, the NCC continued its reflexive far-left political polemics.

Few media or others typically listened, as it was clear the NCC did not meaningfully speak politically for its church-going constituents, most of whom were more conservative. Jerry Falwell by himself got more attention than the NCC, despite its claims to speak for millions.

Thirty years ago my anti-NCC resolution to the Virginia United Methodists failed partly because most clergy regarded the NCC as an important if flawed voice for ecumenism. Almost nobody believes the NCC important today.

I literally hear almost nobody discuss the NCC, pro or con. Few but some retired clergy would feel any loyalty to it. Almost no lay people know about it. My own small (but formidable!) organization, the IRD, founded in 1981 in part to critique the then large, monied and mighty NCC, now has more employees than the NCC.

This tragic demise of a once influential and morally serious Christian council can’t be celebrated. It once did embody Mainline Protestantism’s lofty ecumenical and socially conscious ethos that was so central to American civil society. There’s no meaningful successor.

The NCC’s demise is a warning to other Christians tempted to minimize historic Christian doctrine in favor of supposedly more important political activism. Forgetting its original calling to foster unity in the Body of Christ, the NCC became a parody.

Erroneous portrayals of the NCC as “massive” only underscore the loss and tragedy. But hopefully some Christians will heed the example and not do likewise.

  1. Comment by Bob on October 5, 2018 at 10:11 am

    Said the NCC ant to the drawbridge, as it floated on the river on a wayward leaf, “Raise the bridge that I may pass.”

  2. Comment by Fred on October 5, 2018 at 4:39 pm

    Bob your comment on the ant is immortal even though it may not be original. How incredibly fitting. All the comments here are excellent.

  3. Comment by Larry Collins on October 5, 2018 at 2:36 pm

    These “spokespersons” and
    even denominational members do NOT speak for the members in the pew. This created quite a flap amping conservative Methodists (which are still predominant). The NCC has no business stepping into this matter. Aren’t these the same people
    who would be clamoring for “separation of church and state”?
    Liberal hypocrites.

  4. Comment by Kathryn A Clapp on October 5, 2018 at 3:38 pm

    I agree with Mr. Collins, the NCC does not speak for me as an active member of The United Methodist Church I fully support Judge Kavanaugh.

  5. Comment by Ron. Keister on October 6, 2018 at 11:50 am

    All I can think of to say is that these people/group do not understand nor support My America and Democracy! There is nothing to debate nor discuss!

  6. Comment by Maka on October 5, 2018 at 2:44 pm

    NCC is dead….

  7. Comment by Walter Carroll on October 5, 2018 at 3:57 pm

    This is a case of much ado about nothing. The insipid NCC will jump on any leftist bandwagon to assert its efficacy. They are like unto the ugly step-sister of the “Me Too” movement, pleading to be offended so as to claim victimhood status.

  8. Comment by Robert K Zentmyer on October 5, 2018 at 3:59 pm

    While the NCC may be irrelevant among most church members, its position on this matter is spot on. It is time for all Christians to stop supporting individuals who claim to be conservative acting inappropriately and/or sinfully. This blind support is what has resulted in a president with no clothes behaving pompously, lying, and surrounding himself with yes men who remain on his good side until they say no and then they are history. Kavanaugh is not fit to be a supreme court judge and should not be confirmed. On this matter all sincere Christians should agree.

  9. Comment by D Taylor on October 5, 2018 at 6:26 pm

    “Kavanaugh is not fit to be a supreme court judge . .” You assert this as if It’s a self-evident proposition. It’s not, for a number of reasons, but you can start with this: “The first to present his [or her] case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him” (Proverbs 18:17). Dr. Ford had the opportunity to present her case; others questioned it, and concluded that the evidence for rejecting Judge Kavanaugh was insufficient. With respect, you’re simply begging the question.

  10. Comment by Anne Stansell on October 7, 2018 at 2:44 pm

    So you have evidence of his crime? You should have come forward. Or you have chosen to believe it because someone said it? Believing hearsay about another person, because some one said it was true is neither, fair nor just. Unfortunately it does seem to be something Christians do.

  11. Comment by Michael Childs on October 5, 2018 at 6:24 pm

    This massive opposition was before Dr. Ford surfaced, right?

  12. Comment by Michael Childs on October 5, 2018 at 6:29 pm

    P. S. I’m a sincere Christian and don’t agree with Zentmyer, who apparently confuses unsupported allegations with fact. The NCC almost never spoke/speaks for me – just as the Board of Church and Society and WCC seldom do.

  13. Comment by Dan W on October 5, 2018 at 9:33 pm

    Until roughly 30 days ago, people that knew Judge Kavanaugh considered him a highly respected husband, father, son, friend, coach and of course Federal Appeals Court Judge. Despite several uncorroborated allegations apparently tied to political opposition, none of this has changed. I too am a sincere Christian and see no reason to oppose his confirmation. If current and former Supreme Court Justices were given the same type of scrutiny, how many would look far worse than Judge Kavanaugh? This is just a game to the political opposition. They do not hold their leaders to these standards and are merely trying to trick ethical, God-fearing people.

  14. Comment by Sue Neff on October 6, 2018 at 6:57 pm

    Well put, Dan W.
    He was confirmed today and I for one am glad but sad at the way he was treated.
    The Maine senator Collins did a nice job today, as well. Praying for him and his family.

    Sue N

  15. Comment by Tom D. on October 6, 2018 at 12:19 am

    The NCC does not speak for me either and never did.

  16. Comment by R.G. Henley on October 6, 2018 at 8:22 am

    I would have no problem supporting the withdrawal of the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh if it was accompanied by the dismissal from public service, including elective office, of any person who had ever been the subject of any complaint of impropriety. If we are going to require a certification of sainthood for office, let’s be consistent about it.

  17. Comment by Samuel Wellman on October 6, 2018 at 10:40 am

    i no longer trust Democrats, who practice a double standard. They wanted to sink Kavanaugh on an uncorroborated sex charge, yet they gave Bill Clinton a free pass on all of the sexual allegations against him. And never forget Ted Kennedy and Mary Jo Kopechne at Chappaquiddick. Sincere Christians should not support such devious, underhanded tactics.

  18. Comment by Sasha Kwapinski on October 7, 2018 at 2:41 pm

    A good example of why I don’t put much stock in anything that comes from the NCC.

  19. Comment by Eluisides Perez on October 18, 2018 at 10:06 pm

    They must be demon. They dont believe in CHRIST OUR FATHER IS IN CONTROL

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